College admissions departments use psychology – and dollars – to lure enrollees.

Posted on April 20, 2018

In 2004, when I first became involved in the business of higher education – I had been an entrepreneur for the previous thirty years – I was a bit shocked to learn that colleges discounted their tuition for a large percentage of students. But college admissions executives only used the word “discount” when talking among themselves; when speaking to the public they substituted “scholarship” for “discount.”

Why do they do this, I wondered? The “why” became obvious after I had been involved in higher education for a while, including six years as CEO of a university. When I passed on what I had learned to friends and relatives they either didn’t believe me or thought I was belittling their childrens’ or grandchildrens’ wonderful achievements in securing scholarships to college. So I said little while being frustrated at what I perceived as closed-mindedness, which was probably better defined as “don’t give me any information, factual or not, that will in any way diminish my pride.” It is all about pride, and college admissions people use it to their advantage.

On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, The Wall Street Journal published an article by Melissa Korn titled Prizes for All: Colleges Use Scholarships to Lure Students (URL below).  Seems like Melissa discovered what I had discovered years ago and wrote about it in a prominent publication (not Fake News). Here, in her words, is the essence of the article:

Hundreds of colleges and universities are using academic scholarships and other merit-based financial aid to gain an edge in a battle for students.  The scholarships make students feel wanted and let families think they’re getting a good deal, like a shopper who buys an expensive sweater on sale.

Ms. Korn goes on to describe how tuition discount rates for full-time new students at private colleges averaged 49% in 2017.  I can imagine all the moms and dads who crowed about the huge scholarships their sons and daughters were awarded last year.  There’s no harm in feeling good, and I guess it’s a bit like all the kids in kindergarten coming home with a gold star.  Everyone’s happy – the kid, the parents, and in this case, especially the college.

The wide availability of discounts – call them scholarships if it makes you feel better – and the lack of awareness of their availability, is one of the reasons my organization created This new website allows prospective college students of all ages to state what they want in a school and what they’d like in the way of scholarships, grants or financial aid. Then schools who are looking for that type of students offer admission as well as tuition discounts (0ops. I mean scholarships).

Melissa Kern’s article can be found at

Why do you care what they call it?

Posted on April 10, 2018

So, there was this educational juggernaut of the aughts called Strayer University. It was a for-profit higher education business with over 80 campuses opened and operating between 2000 and 2013. Then it all froze. The Department of Education made seismic changes and Strayer was shaken to its core.

Fast forward five years. There’s a new sheriff in town (Donald Trump) and a Department of  Education with new priorities, leadership, and intent. For-profit schools are beginning to get a second life (no video game pun intended). Strayer will be one of the most aggressive. That’s what they were built to be.

And yet, this is not intended to be a review of the occupants of the White House, DoE or Strayer’s executive suite. It is about the ‘for-profit’ argument.

Why do you care? If the institution is accredited; if the institution is financially able to deliver on its promise to you; if the institution is academically able to deliver on its promise to you — why would you give a damn who owns it, how it’s accounting systems work or any other internal management issues?

With the resurgence of Strayer and other, similarly-situated schools designed to deliver BOTH a product (education) and a profit (well…yeah…a profit) come new possible risks and opportunities. But they have NOTHING to do with ownership. They actually have the same issues as any community college, research university or trade school.

Do they meet your needs? Do they reach your expectations? Will they be in business tomorrow or a year from tomorrow? Are they ready, willing and able to provide the financial aid and benefits you require? Will they provide the structure, information, and direction you need to capitalize on the investment? Can they help you get a job? Is there a system in place to HELP ME (daycare, nighttime classes, professional, trade or vocational classes)? These are the questions people ask…not, ‘gee, is it a charity?’

Use to register and let schools come to you. And notice that we do NOT ask you to tell us whether you want – or even care about – attending a for-profit school. It’s not germane to getting an education, getting a job and getting ahead…unless it is. But, again, that’s no different than the state- or county-run community college a few miles down the road from your home or work.

The ACTUAL meaning of Community Colleges.

Posted on April 2, 2018

“I don’t know what that means — a community college.  To me, it means a two-year college.  I don’t know what it means” – Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States


Never expected these writings to be a 101-level version of educational opportunities, but never expected to have an Ivy League-educated President who has no idea what a community college is.


So, let’s start at the beginning. Some postsecondary schools are focused on specific professional vocational training – auto mechanics, culinary arts, HVAC repair, bookkeeping, dental assistance, medical office and file management, etc. Other postsecondary schools are professionally-focused, but longer, broader and deeper in approach – pre-med to civil engineering; acting to agricultural management. A third category is often known as a liberal arts education – a broader, less-focused, more intellectual pursuit that encompasses the power of general educational integrity. Other professional and graduate schools range from law and medicine to MBAs and six sigma training.


And then there are community colleges. They were created and continue to operate to inure to the benefit of the community in which they exist. In part of America, their focus has evolved to vocational and career training – particularly in places hardest hit by industry implosion (think car makers, steel mills and the like) – because that is exactly what that community needs (populous and business). In other communities, these colleges are feeders to four-year schools. Another reason? Some (many) students aren’t ready or prepared or interested or able to afford to enroll in a four-year school.


Community Colleges exist to help communities. I know that’s an unusual point of view from this President, but reality is reality…and understanding it would be helpful from time to time.




What’s the Value of $100 Grand?

Posted on March 22, 2018


To hear George Mason University professor Bryan Caplan wax poetic…the typical value of a college degree is significantly less than you have paid for – and even less if you count student debt.

Why? Because in his view the study of liberal arts and humanities will not prepare you for a life of profession and career and greatest earning potential. No. If you haven’t spent most of your higher education years in one or more vocational focuses you cannot truly be prepared for what’s next.

Intellectual curiosity is not enough. You must know what your vocation will be and then act on it.

That’s fine for some but for most it’s neither reasonable nor rational. Here’s one rebuttal: if you do not expose yourself to something a bit off-the-mark from what you’ve done or considered, how will you know if it’s valuable to you? Knowing what you know is important. Knowing what you don’t know is crucial.

Get this: When asked how to reconcile his point of view with the answers of educators and administrators who say that well-rounded, broadly thinking people are typically happier and more successful…he simply scoffs.  “People say things, and often believe things that sound good; but if you look closely at their behavior they are being dishonest or they don’t believe it all the way.”

He told this – and more – to the Chronicle of Higher Education…If not the bible than at least the guiding star to mainstream higher education practitioners and administrators. It appears that Professor Caplan believes that most people in his profession are disingenuous or just plain liars.

I’m not going to advocate for one point of view or the other. I am however going to state with complete belief and action, that no one I know will attend GMU or any of his classes.


Understanding the New College Majority

Posted on March 15, 2018

Don’t know about you, but we get studies and reports and charts up the wazoo around the offices. Most, frankly, isn’t worth using the cheapest printer paper we can buy (and trust me, as a start-up we buy really cheap paper!).


This one hit the inbox recently: “Understanding the New College Majority”


It purported to break down the audience and financial characteristics of “independent” higher ed students and their “outcomes.”


First things first: an “independent” student is defined as being all or some of the following: 24+ years old; married; a veteran; an orphan (or other government ‘ward’); active military; a homeless person; or having dependents that aren’t the spouse.


So, that’s how they get to ‘majority’ – lump everyone who isn’t 18-24 and middle income into a catch-all bucket. I guess that’s one way to do it.  But wait, it gets sillier: ‘most’ women are independent vs men; ‘most people of color’ are independent; parents of dependent children are independent; independent studies are 2X as likely to live in poverty.


So what are we to take away from this? As prospective students, it means two things: we’re different and schools don’t know how to help or deal with us. Whether you call non-traditional or independent, they are both code for ‘beats me’ on how to accept, enroll, educate and improve our lives.


So, what do we do about it? Research. Really hard. Demand answers – child care, how can I study part-time and remain on track to completion AND a successful outcome, where would you propose I live, sleep, study and in general have a life?


If the school you are looking at cannot answer these, we’d recommend that you run, as fast and as far as you can. And then check your registration and profile and ensure that you have selected what you need: scholarships, aid, room & board and other. Force the schools to step up before you even contemplate finding a way to pay them.


Independent and Untraditional should never be code words for ignored or second class citizens.